Investing in Europe’s future: Toward sustainable and inclusive growth

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Jyrki Katainen [EPP/Flickr]

Today, Europe is facing several challenges that require decision makers at both European and national level to cooperate, writes European Commission Vice-President, Jyrki Katainen.

Jykri Katainen is the European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness and was Prime Minister of Finland until 2014.

To find the best short and long term solutions, it is crucial that we pool all human potential and innovative ideas in our quest for sustainable European solutions. But more importantly, it is the young generation, students and young professionals that will be the force that shapes how Europe will look like tomorrow – as a region, economy and as a community of shared values and identities. Decisions taken today touch particularly the generations to come.

As Vice-President of the European Commission for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness I would like to address three topics in particular: enhancing democratic participation of the youth and countering youth unemployment, creating sustainable jobs and, and finally, ensuring the transition of our economy from linear into circular. Sustainable transformation requires structural change in where we direct resources. Investment is truly a golden thread that weaves together everything that we do – we need to invest in our people, in our partnerships and in our planet.

Youth participation is at the core of the priorities of the European Youth Strategy. Europe cannot lead its own change without engaging and empowering its youth to take an active stake in political life. From my experience, it is the young people with most innovative ideas and courage to bring in new ways to solve problems. Another priority in the EU’s Youth Strategy is to provide more and equal opportunities for young people in education and the job market. Although it has decreased – from more than 23% in 2013 to less than 21% today – the youth unemployment rate is still unacceptably high in the EU.

Approximately 4.6 million young people aged 15-24 years in the EU are unemployed today. To fight against youth unemployment, the EU has initiated the Youth Employment Package, the Youth guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative. These actions promote young peoples’ access to the labour market and to upgrade their skills to respond to the changing work environment. Mobile and skilled workforce is also in the heart of the Single Market Strategy of the Commission.

Healing Europe means essentially returning to sustainable growth. For me that is the priority together with promoting job-creating projects, which support Europe’s competitiveness and getting people back to work, in jobs they find fulfilling. To respond to these challenges, we launched the Investment Plan for Europe, which has the potential to create 1 to 1.3 million new jobs through boosting private capital. A major preventative measure against future crises is to encourage investment in worthwhile assets that bring high economic and social returns by increasing future productive capacity. This will ultimately induce job creation with significant positive implications on youth unemployment.

Through the three pillars of the Investment Plan and through the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), investment is directed towards sectors where the need for structural transformation is the greatest, to entrepreneurship and innovation, research and development, digital economy, energy and resource efficiency. By providing risk financing to innovative SMEs and start-ups, the Investment Plan stimulates creation of new businesses. Social entrepreneurship has the potential to unlock employment opportunities particularly among young entrepreneurs.

Through the third pillar of the Investment Plan the Commission aims to finalise a truly integrated single market by supporting actions in the areas of the Capital Markets Union, the Digital Single Market and the Energy Union. As Europe transforms to a low carbon economy, we need a new approach to the way we use of resources, from linear to circular production. The Circular Economy Package introduced by the Commission in December aims to do just that.

I have said it before and I will say it again. I am a passionate European. No other place on Earth and at no other time in human history have we provided such a remarkable degree of prosperity, social justice, security and liberty for the overwhelming majority of its people. But is self-evident that Europe cannot transform without its youth.

The European Youth Event 2016 provides a tremendous platform for bridging the gap between the policymakers and the young generation of European citizens. It further provides a forum for innovative ideas for common solutions. Your opinion matters, and the EU listens.

The European Youth Forum will launch, at its YO!Fest, an integral part of the European Youth Event, taking place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 20-21 May 2016, a ground-breaking study on the social inclusion of young people. EURACTIV is a Media Partner of this event.

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